Archaeological news about the Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe from the Archaeology in Europe web site

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Archaeologists in Cambridgeshire find graves of two men with legs chopped off

‘Somebody really, really didn’t like these guys,’ says Jonathan House, archaeologist with the Mola Headland Infrastructure team. 
Photograph: Highways England, courtesy of Mola Headland Infrastructure

Exclusive: men believed to be from late Roman or early Saxon period were found in pit being used as rubbish dump

The graves of two men whose legs were chopped off at the knees and placed carefully by their shoulders before burial have been discovered by archaeologists working on a huge linear site in advance of roadworks in Cambridgeshire.

The best scenario the archaeologists can hope for is that the unfortunate men were dead when their legs were mutilated. It also appears their skulls were smashed in, although that could be later damage.

“Was it to keep them in their graves and stop them from running away?” said Kasia Gdaniec, the senior archaeologist with Cambridge county council. “Or had they tried to run away and was this a punishment – and a warning to everyone else not even to think of it?”

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How to decorate like a Viking

Grand Designs, Viking edition. A new report recreates some of the colours used by Vikings to decorate their houses, including ochre and charcoal pigments. (Photo: Sagnlandet Lejre)

To begin with you will need a handy Viking paint chart. Luckily, archaeologists in Denmark have just made one.
Green is the colour of hope, white symbolises surrender or innocence, and black binds the living to the dead.

Colour has always carried meaning for people, including the Vikings, for whom it symbolised power and wealth.

But what colours did the Vikings use?

Archaeologists and chemists have now studied colour use in the Viking Age based on the chemical analyses of pigments from a number of objects and a review of existing information on the topic.

These colours are now available to all in the form of a colour palette: A Viking paint chart.

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DNA study reveals fate of Irish women taken by Vikings as slaves to Iceland

The Sea Stallion from Glendalough, a reconstructed Viking ship [Credit: Eric Luke]

The mapping of DNA from some of the settlers who colonised Iceland more than 1,000 years ago offers an insight into the fate of thousands of slaves – mostly women – who were taken by Norse Vikings from Ireland and Scotland before they put down roots on the North Atlantic island.

Anthropologist Sunna Ebenesersdóttir, of the University of Iceland and the company deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik, analysed the genomes of 25 ancient Icelanders whose skeletal remains were found in burial sites across the island.

Sequencing using samples from teeth revealed the settlers had a roughly even split of Norse (from what are today Norway and Sweden) and Gaelic ancestry. It is the first in-depth investigation of how a new population is formed through a genetic process known as “admixture”.

When the researchers compared the ancient genomes to those of modern people in Iceland and other European countries, they found contemporary Icelanders, on average, draw about 70 per cent of their genes from Norse ancestry.

This suggests that in the 1,100 years between settlement and today, the population underwent a surprisingly quick genetic shift in favour of Norse genes, the researchers report in the journal Science.

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Monday, 18 June 2018

Inscribed seventh-century window ledge unearthed at Tintagel

The slate ledge was found during excavations of Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, a site associated with the stories of King Arthur. Photograph: Nigel Wallace-Iles/English Herit/PA

A seventh-century slate window ledge inscribed with an intriguing mix of Latin, Greek and Celtic words, names and symbols has been unearthed at in north Cornwall.

The discovery adds weight to the view that the rugged coastal site, which is most often , was home in the early middle ages to a sophisticated and multicultural port community.

Put together with other finds including Iberian goblets and bowls from what is now Turkey, the slate ledge suggests Tintagel may well have been an important royal base with trade links stretching from Europe’s Atlantic coast to the eastern Mediterranean.

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Large-scale whaling in north Scandinavia may date back to 6th century

Top: a board-game piece made from whalebone at the end of the 6th century CE, found in Gnistahögen near Uppsala, Sweden (photograph by Bengt Backlund, Uppland County Museum). Bottom: the bone structure of the gaming piece compared with reference bone from minke whale (photograph by Rudolf Gustavsson, Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis, SAU) [Credit: Bengt Backlund/Rudolf Gustavsson]

Museum collections in Sweden contain thousands of Iron Age board-game pieces. New studies of the raw material composing them show that most were made of whalebone from the mid-6th century CE. They were produced in large volumes and standardised forms. The researchers therefore believe that a regular supply of whalebone was needed. Since the producers would hardly have found the carcasses of beached whales a reliable source, the gaming pieces are interpreted as evidence for whaling.

Apart from an osteological survey, species origin has been determined for a small number of game pieces, using ZooMS (short for Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometer). The method shows that all the pieces analysed were derived from the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), a massive whale weighing 50-80 tonnes. It got the name because it was the right whale to hunt: it swam slowly, close to shore, and contained so much blubber as to float after being killed.

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Bedfordshire's first Roman town wall unearthed in Sandy

Items discovered by Les Capon and his team include the skeleton of a woman, a funeral pyre, Roman rubbish and a pottery kiln

Archaeologists excavating a former allotment site in a market town have made the "absolutely brilliant" find of a previously-unknown Roman wall.

The dig in Sandy, Bedfordshire, has uncovered about 200 items dating from the Iron Age in 500 BC to the Saxon period in 800 AD.

Among the finds is the remains of a Saxon house.

The site, in Stratford Road, is to be turned into a cemetery, car park and council depot.

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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

MISE AU JOUR D’UNE VILLA DE L’ANTIQUITÉ


À Vire (Calvados), l’Inrap conduit depuis la fin du mois de février 2018 une fouille d’envergure, sur prescription de l’Etat (Drac Normandie). Cette opération s’inscrit dans le cadre de l’extension du Parc d’activités La Papillonnière menée par la communauté de communes Intercom de la Vire au Noireau.

Les recherches d’une équipe d’archéologues ont permis de mettre au jour les vestiges d’une villa gallo-romaine occupée du Ier au IIIe siècle de notre ère. Ils témoignent de la richesse de son propriétaire. À l’ouest de la villa, le site livre également les vestiges d’une occupation plus tardive, entre les VIIe et Xe siècles.

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